A short report in last week’s Financial Times (subscriber only; click on #42 here to sign up for a free trial) describes one of the most divisive issues in the Spanish Muslim community right now: the lack of a divider at the cathedral of Cordoba, once the largest mosque in Europe.
Twelve-hundred years ago, Christians and Muslims shared the space with a dividing wall. Now, Spain’s community of 20,000 converts to Islam want permission from the Vatican (denied, so far) to carve out a small space for Islam once again. Spain’s 480,000 Muslim immigrants, mostly Moroccans, would rather lay low. Their big demand? Government subsidies so that mosques won’t take money from Saudi Arabia, thus increasing the influence of radical Wahabism.
Both groups are, in their way, seeking to combat anti-Muslim anger, on the rise since the Madrid bombings. But, writes Joshua Levitt, “it’s an uphill battle.”
And that’s an unfortunate metaphor. In Saturday’s British Telegraph, Isambard Wilkinsonbroadens the historical frame to explain why. “The miracle of the Barranco de Sangre was not of the usual healing kind. Local legend has it that after a savage battle between Europe’s first Islamic guerrilla army and Spanish soldiers in the mountains of the south, a sun-baked gully now known as the Ravine of Blood witnessed a miraculous event.
“With the valley awash with the gore of both sides, the blood of the Christians miraculously flowed uphill to prevent it becoming tainted by that of the Muslims.”
Wilkinson provides more than historical depth. That battle is part of “bin Laden‘s most oft-repeated lament… for the ‘tragedy of Andalusia,’ a reference to the bloody wars waged between Spain and the Moorish regions during the era of Muslim rule from the 8th to the 15th centuries.” According to Wilkinson, this lament “gives the lie” to bin Laden’s offer of a truce with Europe, since, presumably, he would never give up the fight for Andalusia.
That’s not reporting, it’s psychologizing, and rather far-fetched at that. Bin Laden’s stated aim is to bring his vision of Islam to already Muslim lands and Israel. Bad enough, but that doesn’t include Spain. Still, Wilkinson’s report is exceptional for noting the role of memory and myth in today’s battles. And on both sides: “Even today,” he reports, the area’s “ostentatious slaughtering of pigs and celebration of wine are derived from the old need to show that one was not a closet Muslim.”
If only religious bigotry could be confined to feasting and wine snobbery.
Some of the commentators at Little Green Footballs, the 33rd most popular blog out there according to Technorati, have other ideas. LGF, as it’s known, was a subject at this past Saturday’s Bloggercon religion session. A commentator noted that religion blogging can lead to a perverse kind of “common ground” when it brings several different types of believers — Protestants, Catholics, and Jews at LGF — together in hatred of an “enemy,” defined here as pretty much all Muslims, worldwide.
“I would be more than happy to see a Spanish Inquisition targetted at mohammedans alone….to the last devil worshipping one,” writes one commentator. “Poor poor muslims,” writes another. “What kind of country would look down on a holy people such as the muslims who worship an evil religion founded by violent pedophile?”
These guys could really use a pig roast.